Dec 29, 2009


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million kids between the ages of 5 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2006. The common perception is that a student with ADHD will exhibit a total lack of focus, accompanied by fidgeting, daydreaming, impulsiveness, and a tendency to cause disruption. However, there is another, often overlooked side to this disorder that could actually be considered somewhat of a benefit.

In addition to a lack of focus on activities that do not hold interest for the ADHD student, activities that are engaging can trigger a state of “hyperfocus”. This is essentially a term used to describe a frame of mind in which the individual can block out any exterior distractions and hone in on the task at hand with unusual concentration and endurance. For example, an ADHD student may have tremendous difficulty completing a Math assignment, but will be able to play a computer game for hours without interruption.

The cause of hyperfocus (as well as other ADHD symptoms) is believed to be a deficiency in neurotransmitters inside the brain. However, this is still under debate, as is the way in which ADHD medication alleviates these symptoms.

Despite the obvious problems this may cause, hyperfocus can certainly be seen in a positive light as well. Swimming legend Michael Phelps, for example, has proven that ADHD and hyperfocus can help an individual attain greatness.

Students and parents of students with ADHD should be mindful of this aspect of the disorder and strive to utilize it in a positive way where possible. Encourage it when it yields helpful benefits, and curtail it when it interferes with other facets of life. Teachers also have a responsibility to tailor lessons so that students with ADHD are engaged. One great article from, written by Royce Flippin, offers insightful advice on one way to do this: "Kids with ADD are demanding a higher standard of teaching," says William Sears, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. "A child with ADD gets bored quickly when he's asked to memorize a bunch of history dates. But if he helps write a play on the subject and then performs in it, he's going to shine."

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